#EnvHist Worth Reading: June 2022

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Every month I carefully track the most popular and significant environmental history articles, videos, audio, and other items making their way through the online environmental history (#envhist) community. You can read all of our past #EnvHist Worth Reading lists right here. Here are my choices for items most worth reading from June 2022:

1. As the Great Salt Lake Dries Up, Utah Faces An ‘Environmental Nuclear Bomb’

Until recently, the mega-metropolis of Wasatch Front – made up of the cities of Provo, Brigham City, and Salt Lake City – represented a “hydrological miracle.” In the summer, Christopher Flavelle notes in his New York Times article, the Great Salt Lake would drop several feet and, in the spring, rivers flooded by snow-melt would replenish it. The twin forces of climate change and population growth have wreaked havoc on this system, and the Great Salt Lake is drying up. With photography by Bryan Tarnowski, Flavelle explores the impact of this environmental situation on the local population, and turns to the 20th century example of California’s Owens Lake to explore what the future has in store for the region.

2. From History to Poetry: Mai Der Vang Explores the Archival Record in Her Celebrated Volume “Yellow Rain”

This post on the National Security Archive’s website discusses how Mai Der Vang, finalist for the 2022 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry, used the archive’s collection to research the “trauma experienced by the Hmong people during the Secret War in Laos of the 1960s and 1970s.” The title of her poetry collection, Yellow Rain, refers to a lethal, airborne toxin that caused mysterious illnesses among the Hmong people after the United States’ withdrawal from Indochina. “Hmong and other eyewitnesses who fled to Thailand described the strange, sticky liquid as causing plant life to die and humans to suffer skin blistering, blindness, seizures, and other maladies,” Malcolm Byrne writes. The post also includes a brief interview with Vang and links to the National Security Archive documents that she consulted.

3. Making Rain under the Mallas

Focusing on the Kathmandu Valley in the 1500s and 1600s, Iain Sinclair explores the history of rainmaking rituals in this Arcadia article. “While modern climate sciences have paid little attention to rainmaking rituals, records of rainmaking performances offer useful data on climate history,” Sinclair writes. In the article, Sinclair examines rainmaking rituals that are recorded in the Buddhist sacred text, The Great Cloud, and the religious and cultural significance of how these rituals are represented in this text and elsewhere.

4. A conversation with Abigail Sidebotham, artist, oral historian and project lead on the Sea Empress Project

In this blog post for White Horse Press, Timothy Cooper provides additional context for his Environment and History article, “‘A Kind of Sensory, Strange Thing to Experience’: Speaking Environmental Disaster in the Sea Empress Project Archive.” He interviews Abigail Sidebotham, the project lead for the subject of the article, the Sea Empress Project. The Sea Empress oil spill took place off the coast of Pembrokeshire, UK in 1996, and the Sea Empress Project was conceived as a way of “looking at how people’s identity is rooted in landscape and the ‘natural’ world and what the existential repercussions of degradation or disaster are.” Cooper and Sidebotham discuss the sensory experience of the spill and how it is reflected in the project archive, the use of oral history, and the concept of “resilience.”

5. What you should know about Black birders

For #BlackBirdersWeek in June, Jacqueline Scott wrote a brief overview of black birding for The Conversation and the racialized nature of the hobby. “Birdwatching is also a racialized hobby, where whiteness and white privilege work together to keep it non-Black. What this means is that the birders are white, may belong to white birding clubs and go on birding walks in woodsy areas which are seen as white spaces,” Scott states. Scott touches upon the long, racist history of birding, going back to Audobon, and how the racialization of outdoor spaces has created barriers to Black individuals participating in birding.

Remember to follow the #envhist hashtag and NiCHE (@NiCHE_Canada) on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to keep up with the latest environmental history content.

Feature Image: “Great Salt Lake” by John-Morgan is licensed under CC BY 2.0.
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is an environmental historian of Canada and the United States, editor, project manager, and digital communications strategist. She earned her PhD in History from the University of Saskatchewan in 2019. She is an executive member, editor-in-chief, and social media editor for the Network in Canadian History and Environment (NiCHE). Additionally, she is the Managing Editor for the Chacruna Institute for Psychedelic Plant Medicines. She is also a working board member of the Saskatchewan History and Folklore Society and Girls Rock Saskatoon and a Coordinating Team member of Showing Up for Racial Justice Saskatoon-Treaty Six. A passionate social justice advocate, she focuses on developing digital techniques and communications that bridge the divide between academia and the general public in order to democratize knowledge access. You can find out more about her and her freelance services at jessicamdewitt.com.

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